There were times this summer when the outlook appeared grim for Matt Hughes.
However, over the course of a couple months, the UFC Hall of Famer made a miraculous recovery from injuries suffered during a serious accident this summer. On Tuesday, Hughes returned to HSHS St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill., to help honor two of the nurses who cared for him during his stay. Hughes was accompanied by his wife, Audra, their daughters Hanna and Katelyn and his friend, Tony Zucca.
According to a release from the hospital, Zucca nominated nurses Ashley Hull and Megan Simpson for the DAISY Award, which honors “extraordinary nurses” each month at St. John’s. In August, Zucca posted video of Hughes grappling, calling his friend’s recovery “remarkable.”
“I am writing on behalf of the Matt Hughes family,” Zucca wrote in his nomination. “Matt was in a terrible accident on June 16, 2017. He was airlifted to St. John's and admitted to the ICU. As with any tragedy, emotions and confusion ran high. Ashley Hull and Megan Simpson were blessings in the middle of a nightmare. While everyone at St. John's was wonderful, these two nurses simply went above and beyond and brought as much peace and calm to our lives that was humanly possible. They were extremely patient and knowledgeable with our countless questions; they would bring coffee when our eyes couldn't stay open a minute longer. And the professionalism they displayed instilled confidence in us in that we knew Matt was in great hands. They are masters of their craft and the most caring nurses I have ever encountered. Matt has a long road ahead of him, and I can say with certainty that the family wishes Ashley and Megan could stick with us every step of the way. St. John's should be proud of employing people of their caliber.”
Hughes was able to thank the nurses and present them with their awards during a private ceremony on Tuesday. Hughes was also honored, as he received the HSHS St. John’s Superhero Award “for turning a setback into a comeback.”
“My family and friends have told me that the entire team at St. John’s was really good to me and all of them,” Hughes said in the release. “It means the world to me. Thank you all so very much.”
Hughes was hospitalized after the passenger side of the vehicle he was driving was hit by a train while crossing railroad tracks in Raymond, Ill., on June 16. According to Illinois State Police, Hughes drove his vehicle across the tracks “directly in front of the train.” He was then airlifted to HSHS St. John’s hospital, where he was placed on a ventilator and his condition was described as stable but “minimally responsive.” Hughes’ family then posted updates on June 26 and July 4, the last of which stated that the former UFC star was showing “small signs of improvement.”
Hughes compiled a 45-9 record over the course of his UFC career and was twice the Las Vegas-based promotion’s welterweight champion. The Hall of Famer earned victories over the likes of Georges St. Pierre, B.J. Penn, Royce Gracie, Matt Serra, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg and Hayato Sakurai, to name a few. He last competed at UFC 135 in September 2011, suffering a first-round knockout loss to Josh Koscheck.
Hughes was hired as the UFC’s Vice President of Athlete Development and Government Relations after his retirement but was let go when parent company Zuffa sold the UFC to WME-IMG last summer.